Inkjet Image Quality Improvements Continue at a Fast Pace

Posted on by Dave Erlandson | No Comments »

Remember back to some of the first inkjet presses, like the VERSAMARK from Kodak.  The image quality of the output was often referred to as “business color”, which meant the colors were pale and washed out and the resolution was low.  And paper stocks were very limited. The only applications that could use this image quality were transactional documents and some direct mail.

Recently three of the leading web press manufacturers have announced products and technologies that produce outstanding image quality on a wide range of standard offset or inkjet stocks. The quality is so good it can be used in the most demanding applications including catalogs, magazines, direct mail and promotional materials.

In February, HP announced new High Definition Nozzle Architecture technology  for HP Inkjet Web Presses. The new High Definition Nozzle Architecture printhead doubles the native print resolution of current HP inkjet print heads from 10,560 to 21,120 nozzles, delivering 2400 nozzles per inch (Per color on a single color printhead in quality mode), and supports dual drop weights per color.  HP sent image samples in conjunction with the announcement and they, of course, look terrific.  The HDNA technology will be in beta in 2015 and then available in 2016 for new and existing HP inkjet web press customers.

Canon’s latest inkjet web press is the Océ ImageStream™ 3500, which offers 1200 x 1200 dpi on standard offset coated stocks. The press uses a combination of newly developed native 1200 dpi head from Kyocera and new ink chemistry developed by Canon.  This new ink chemistry provides higher edge sharpness due to less fray and dot gain in conjunction with increased optical density, which results in a stronger contrast and thus razor sharp lines (or letters) and vibrant colors. Previously, high-quality inkjet printing relied on treated paper or special add-ons such as bonding agents or primers to achieve optimum quality, but with this technology, high quality output is achievable on standard offset papers.

At Graph Expo Ricoh announced their newest entry into the inkjet web press market – the VC60000. This press can achieve 1200×1200 dpi resolution and the print samples look fantastic. The image quality is high enough for nearly any commercial print application from direct mail to magazines to catalogs. The VC60000 is engineered to run both uncoated and glossy, standard offset papers ranging from 40-250 gsm. It has a priming unit that pretreats the paper prior to the ink being jetted. An optional inline protector coating unit provides scratch and scuff resistance to protect critical documents.

And more announcements will come shortly at Hunkeler Innovation Days. Xerox is expected to announce a new inkjet product and Canon will officially launch and give a formal name to their Niagara cutsheet inkjet press.

The first hurdle for gaining acceptance for any new printing technology is image quality. And Inkjet image quality for production printing has come a long way since “business color”. The image quality coming out of the latest technologies has improved tremendously and is clearly acceptable to most printers and their customers.  The first wave of adoption of inkjet was in the transactional market, where lower image quality and uncoated stocks were acceptable. Next came book printing. With the advent of the new higher image quality output on coated stocks, look for the next wave of adoption in the commercial printing markets.

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